Genuflect. Reflect.


Let me start this piece with a reading from Tom Cochrane’s The Emotional Experience of the Sublime:

The literature on the venerable aesthetic category of the sublime often provides us with lists of sublime phenomena — mountains, storms, deserts, volcanoes, oceans, the starry sky, and so on. But it
has long been recognized that what matters is the experience of such objects. We then find that one of the most consistent claims about this experience is that it involves an element of fear. Meanwhile, the recognition of the sublime as a category of aesthetic appreciation implies that attraction, admiration or pleasure is also present.

However, there is also a sense of fear and attraction when we watch car chases or fights. Neither of these is an occasion for the sublime so much as a visceral sort of excitement.

As such, I will argue that it is not quite fear, but something that often manifests itself as fear that can be located in our experiences of the sublime. I call this a feeling of self-negation. This feeling, which comes in a few varieties, may be less physiologically intense than everyday instances of fear. But it has a certain psychological profundity that coheres well with our intuitions concerning the sublime.Meanwhile, claiming that sublime objects arouse feelings of self-negation rather than simple fear makes our attraction to these objects no less problematic. Note that while it is plausible that our sense of beauty is evolutionarily adaptive, since it attracts us to objects or environments conducive to survival or healthy offspring, the same could not easily be said of the sublime. Mountains, storms, the starry night and so on are in general not conducive to survival. On the contrary, it is quite appropriate that we find these phenomena fearful, horrifying or even monstrous and that we avoid them as much as possible. So to feel any sense of attraction for these phenomena is puzzling. 

Spelunking and/or cave exploration is a sublime experience for me. In the stillness and darkness of the caves, I am transported into the unknown, oft times, greeted with fear — fear of the complex and the inexplicable. The immaculate silence — punctuated only by the sloshing sound of us wading through knee- to waist-deep waters — imploding in my ear, the smell of burnt kerosene and the freezing cold, strike me as both numbing and invigorating. In the grandest part of the Capisaan Cave System in Nueva Vizcaya*, I was suspended in amazement as I gaze at the various unique speleothems — flowstones, columns, drapers, stalagmites and stalactites, and straws formed eons ago… and, crawling through a narrow crevice and exiting into a cavernous chamber gave me a curious experience of being ‘born’ again.

* Extending 4.2km from its main entry in Alayan Cave to the Lion Cave exit point, Capisaan is the fifth longest cave system in the country. Located 700 to 900 MASL in Brgy. Capisaan in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the Capisaan Cave System is a geologist’s heaven, full of various unique speleothems — flowstones, columns, drapers, stalagmites and stalactites, and straws. Running through the cave system is a subterranean stream, which can inundate portions of the cave up to 20ft during the rainy season. The very cold water is generally waist-deep all throughout the cave, but there are areas where the water level can reach up to the neck.


About Seeing with Brahmin eyes
My sense of humor can be keen, sarcastic, silly or corny -- sometimes all at once. I enjoy meeting new people with no preconceived ideas about what or what is not possible. You get much more out of life by being open minded and willing. I'm an easy going, good-natured person who loves life and loves people. I'm both optimistic and realistic and pretty objective when it comes to assessing situations, events, etc. In general I am a very positive person and you'll usually find we with a smile on my face.

3 Responses to Genuflect. Reflect.

  1. arjekins says:

    Excitement. Admiration and fear in all.

  2. Alles Wat Is says:

    Beauties of the mineral world . The journey in the caves not for the faint hearted !

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